Meaning matters. Of course it does, in most things. Especially in politics.
Take Brexit and last night’s defeat of the Prime Minister’s Brexit ‘deal’ by 230 votes. The meaning of this should be instant and obvious, but Theresa May is apparently unperturbed and will slog on regardless, as PM, and hoping to somehow morph a ‘better’ deal.
In ‘ordinary’ political times this defeat would have meant her defeat and the defeat of her government. But as every UK news broadcaster informs us at the moment, these are not ordinary times. The fact I am putting words within single quotation marks represents this to some degree.
This whole Brexit issue has been such a colossal conundrum. That it has engaged/enraged such a large portion of the UK population is both deeply ironic and embarrassing: it really should be austerity and the phenomenal increase in food banks and child poverty and the crisis in care, both for the elderly and the young, that has engaged/enraged. But no, this hasn’t animated a country where only the wealthiest have continued to prosper, and prosper hugely since 2008.
That the pro-Brexit ‘majority’ [and this word as well as its implications requires considerable unravelling, like the Brexiteers’ mantra of the ‘democratic will of the people’…] was in my opinion driven by the ‘immigration’ disinformation via UKIP; the ‘sovereignty’ deflection by a few, and the ‘wealth of a nation’ ironies by hedge-fund self-interests like those of Rees Mogg et al – and this is despairing.
Well, that in itself presents the colossal dilemma as I am merely presenting one side of the argument, and this is where, in simplistic terms, the bifurcation of a nation sits. And this is too large to debate here, now, after the event of yesterday.
My focus in this piece is Jeremy Corbyn’s shouting. I joined the Labour Party soon after Corbyn was elected leader and did so for two main reasons: first, my political sensibilities have always been socialist; and second, Corbyn represented this genuine Left leaning and seemed to me a sincere politician of principle. This latter quality mattered, especially in a political world where such is ostensibly and frighteningly lacking.
This didn’t mean I didn’t have reservations. Most of these were, and are increasingly now to do with presentation. Whilst meaning should matter most [like having sincere principles about socialism and caring about others and adhering to these] in the political world today, presentation – the yin – and presence – the yang – [remember, nothing is ‘ordinary’ or as it used to be anymore…] matter greatly too.
At times Corbyn has displayed this, but too often he hasn’t/doesn’t. For me, Prime Minister’s Questions and other House of Commons debates are where Corbyn is ‘failing’. And he fails because he shouts too much. I know it is the performance of a seasoned campaigner having to historically shout a message above a din in the most difficult places.
Whenever I watch/see Corbyn [primarily on the TV News, like most of us] he is shouting and I am shouting back at the television for him to stop shouting. May, like Cameron before her and thus two unprincipled PMs, always behaves/behaved calmly and thus apparently in control. It is in most respects an aspect of the thorough preparedness, Cameron often having killer put-downs, written by others, and May similarly, though she has her own seasoned knack of being apparently ‘superior’ in thought and meaning with a calm riposte and other kind of rehearsed slap-downs.
This is the nature of the parliamentary ‘debate’, of course, and there is little spontaneous cut and thrust. Therefore, if you come prepared with what to say, it is important to know how to say it. Corbyn needs to stop shouting. He even has a crescendo of shouting, so her starts loud and gets louder. Any good teacher will tell you, calmly, shouting is by and large an ineffective way of conveying message and meaning.
As for spontaneity and actual debating – well, as I have said, that is not the nature of HoC discourse, but Corbyn [and his team] could surely work more to respond immediately and critically to the things May says and claims rather than relying on the often [by then] less relevant reply of the prepared response. You know what I mean.
Meaning matters, but presentation and presence often matters more, for impact. This is paradoxical when so many other politicians get away without either substance. Obviously playing to my political leanings, two ‘successful’ if appalling Tory politicians who somehow manage to get air-time and thus credence are Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, especially yesterday.
First, Raab somehow gets plenty of time to speak on Brexit when as the Brexit Minister he helped to negotiate what he now despises, and whenever he speaks, as yesterday, he too is calm and relatively unflustered, but he always comes across to me as the archetypal Headteacher who is smooth and polished but you know immediately could never engage and control the most ordinary of classrooms [let alone command respect] and yet Raab is touted as a possible ‘leader’. Second, just before ITN News was about to interview Boris Johnson for their 10 o’clock slot last night, he was roughing up his hair for his own kind of vacuous ‘presentation’, a tousling of the bonnet for a tousling of verbiage that somehow still seems to endear so many to him.
It is clear that over perhaps the past year Corbyn has had his own hair redesigned. It is subtle and neat and nothing like the madcap mop of BJ, but there has been a recognition that presence and presentation does matter, so there is a sense of modernity to it and a pedicured beard. He now wears ‘conventional’ suits. And ties.
Therefore, to whoever is in charge of being mindful to presence – so that the meaning can be delivered despite people’s shallow prejudices, but also so it doesn’t aggravate those like me who find the shouting suggestive of a lack of control – can you please stop Corbyn from SHOUTING.